CLUSTERS MEET REGIONS: AGORADA+ discussed Croatian digital transformation and interregional cooperation
The European Commission (EC) and the European Association of Development Agencies (EURADA), in collaboration with the European Cluster Collaboration Platform, organised a workshop to explore how clusters, regional development agencies and other actors could foster stronger collaboration in the implementation of regional and national economic development policies, specifically with the purpose to further promote digital transformation and interregional cooperation in Croatia.
The objective of the event was to facilitate the implementation of good practices where clusters play an active role in regional economies and are drivers for economic transition and to create and promote collaborations between clusters and regional stakeholders for the industrial development of the regions.
The event aimed at bringing together around 100 representatives of regional development agencies, part of or outside EURADA’s network, cluster organisations, national public authorities, companies, the Enterprise Europe Network, and other business support organisations from the EU Member States and regions. The participation was from a wide range of economic development actors: including financial intermediaries, clusters, innovation hubs, industrial associations, investors, business angels, crowdfunding platforms, and others.
The Clusters meet Regions Series
EU regions need to be able to compete with other more advanced and emerging economies in the fast-changing economic and social environment, in particular in the post-Covid-19 recovery period. Location matters particularly for clusters. They develop more easily in urban and regional ecosystems with a favourable administrative and regulatory environment and access to skilled labour, markets, and financial and business support services.
This workshop in Croatia took place within the framework of AGORADA+, one of EURADA’s four main annual events, which is usually held in autumn in the region of one of the association’s members. For the first time since its foundation, all EURADA members in one country hosted this year’s event under the leadership of SIMORA – Development Agency of Sisak-Moslavina County. The event was co-organised by DURA – Dubrovnik Development Agency, ZARA – Zagorje Development Agency, the Entrepreneurial Centre of Krapina-Zagorje County, ZADRA NOVA – Zadar County Development Agency, with the support of ZICER – Zagreb Innovation Centre.
What really matters is the involvement of clusters in regional economic governance, policy design and implementation at the regional level.
Regional authorities need to know their clusters and understand how they can shape, improve and effectively help in the design and implementation of regional development policies. On the other hand, cluster organisations and their members should take actions and implement projects that are relevant for the economic development of their local communities. They should engage in collaboration with other European clusters in the same or related economic activities and thus complement regional assets and reinforce capacities to lead green transition, accelerate digital transition and build resilience.
15 regional workshops will be organised in the EU regions, which express their interest to host the events in 2022-23 as part of the “Clusters meet Regions” cycle.
These workshops will bring together clusters and policymakers of the EU, national, regional and local level to learn from each other how to better use clusters to strengthen industrial ecosystems, serve national/regional economic development and liaise with other regions with similar transition challenges.
Croatia is experiencing increased economic growth in the last few years, starting in 2015 stimulated by the increase in exports. The benefits of this growth have portrayed themselves through improved living standards which reached 65.2 % in comparison to the EU average in 2019. In 2021, GDP grew by 5.7% and is projected to grow by 3.7% in 2022 albeit growth numbers reveal an increasing disparity between the Capital region and the rest of the country.
The National Development Strategy of the Republic of Croatia predicts that the country will base its development on an increase in productivity in the private and public sectors, on the creation and implementation of knowledge and investment stimulation, as well as on the use of innovation and new technologies. The manufacturing industry, for instance, has shown an increase of 6.2% in 2021, with the biggest impact seen in the production of electric energy, metal processing industry, and food industry. Other strong sectors include tourism, commerce, agriculture, textiles, wood processing, construction, and ICT.
Due to this, the Ministry of Economy has started an initiative for Croatian competitiveness clusters in sectors such as wood, automotive, food, textile, leather and shoe, ICT, defense, construction, CCI, and science.
The strategic location of Croatia has allowed collaboration with all neighbouring countries on many cross-border, interregional and transnational projects. These initiatives tend to lower cross-border barriers for businesses, solve common challenges, stimulate research and innovation, reduce environmental pollution, exploit unused growth potential, create the integration of cross-border labour markets that foster cooperation between educational institutions, and much more. There are established collaboration actions with Italy and Slovenia, as well as with Bosnia and Herzegovina and Montenegro (that are not part of the EU).
There are many examples of cross-border cooperation in which Croatia participates, such as the Interreg Italy-Croatia CBC Programme and the Interreg Slovenia-Croatia CBC Programme. Croatia also takes part in transnational projects such as the Interreg Central Europe, Interreg Danube and Interreg EURO-Med, as well as the interregional programmes Interreg Europe and URBACT. Topics that are covered include, amongst others, biodiversity preservation, zero-carbon urban mobility, industrial transition & entrepreneurship, SME competitiveness, climate change, culture and sustainable tourism, circular economy, research, and innovation capacities.
The event agenda can be found here.
Have a look at the participants’ Info Pack for practical information.
Read the Input Paper on Croatian digital transformation and interregional cooperation here.
Should you wish to consult the event's slides, please click here for Day 1 and Day 2.